Three words say it all: arroz con gandules, a.k.a. Puerto Rican rice and beans (pigeon peas). This is one of the most popular rice dishes in the world, or at least half the world, and deserving every bit of its fame. This dish is a little different from most recipes for arroz con gandules, as the spices and flavorings are prepared first, using a roux similar to the method used for preparing cajun gumbo.
Mix spices together in advance, in a small bowl or dish. This will allow the spices to be added quickly to the rice when ready.
Heat up a cast iron dutch oven – or an aluminum caldero – for about ten minutes on the stovetop at medium heat. When the pot is good and hot, add oil and wait a minute until the oil is hot. Add two tablespoons of sofrito to the oil, and stir fry the sofrito. Add six ounces tomato paste, and stir it together with the sofrito to make a thick roux. After about five minutes, add the spices, and again stir everything together into a roux. Add pigeon peas to the pot, and stir it all together. When everything is mixed together, add 2 cups uncooked rice and stir it all together. The rice will take on the yellow color of Spanish rice. When the rice is thoroughly colored, add 4 cups hot water to the pot. Stir it all around, then cover the pot and wait ten minutes for the water to come to a boil. Lower the stovetop burner to low heat. Cover the pot once again, and let the rice simmer for twenty minutes to absorb the water and cook the rice. Uncover and serve.
This chicken dish isn't exactly a Latin American recipe; it's a simple dish of chicken stewed in tomatoes, using Latin American spices. In many Hispanic neighborhoods there are several local restaurants where they cook big meat stews and serve them over rice. I wanted this chicken dish to be similar to those stewed chicken dishes, which are quite delicious and filling – and inexpensive. You can also use pork and/or beef in this stew.
Mix tomatoes and spices together into a spicy sauce. Heat up an enameled dutch oven, and brown the chicken on all sides. Add chopped onion and garlic, stir fry it all around until the onions are soft. Add sauce to the pot and mix everything together. Cover and simmer on the stovetop at low-medium heat for an hour and a half. Uncover and simmer for another hour, to reduce and thicken the sauce. During this time, prepare arroz con gandules. When the rice is done, the chicken will be falling off the bone. Serve chicken over rice.